Baby Sleep

The Comfort Suites here in Linthicum, Maryland doesn’t have too much to recommend it. It does have location, just a couple of miles from Baltimore-Washington International Airport. It also has the de rigueur shuttle bus to ferry you to and from the terminal. And it has a free breakfast, although it is nothing gourmet: a few cereals, a couple varieties of pastries and breads, and little compressed round yellow things that I assume are scrambled eggs but which look remarkably visually unappealing.  High speed wireless? In theory yes, in practice no. It feels like I am using a modem.

My room is a bit musty, the bathtub a bit chipped but otherwise the room is clean and nice. The view outside my windows speaks of the local zoning laws. A Red Roof Inn offers its imposing presence across the lot. A Quiznos is on the corner and I look down at a Budget Truck rental lot. A private park and ride is across the street. In short, it’s a basically clean hotel but except for an oddly placed electronics museum across the street, it has little else to recommend it other than its convenience to the airport. My team found it convenient because five of us were within local driving distance. This plus the bargain rate we negotiated with the hotel makes for a very cheap developer’s meeting at a facility a few miles down the road. It is almost close enough to drive home every night, but Washington’s legendary traffic jams makes it more convenient for me to sleep here for three nights instead.

My hotel room though does have two big plusses. First, it is quiet for a hotel. You may hear an occasional door slam down the hall, but it is well muffled. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it has a very comfortable bed. I have slept in much better beds, and arguably the fine mattress we have at home is even better. But a quiet room and a comfortable bed yield something I rarely get at home: a really good night’s sleep.

This is my guilty pleasure with hotel living, when I can find it. However, when the hotel is quiet because it is only half occupied, the beds are comfortable and, most important of all, I am sleeping alone, I can sleep like a baby. I wake up remarkably refreshed. This happens, at most, one night a week when I am at home. Part of this is due to rising at 6:30 during the week, but the larger factor is that by Friday night I feel sleep deprived enough where I can mostly tune out my beloved spouse’s snoring.

I don’t hold her snoring against her because I snore myself. I never hear myself snore, even when I feel like I am awake and just beginning to nod off. But I usually hear my wife snore, and even a quarter century later I still find it challenging to sleep through her nocturnal noises. What I do most nights is insert silicon ear plugs into the ear canals. It helps quite a bit but is not a solution. To rest well, I generally need to either be exhausted or to be sleeping alone. In short, I need no loud or aberrant noises. I prefer silence or, lacking silence, some gentle white noise that helps tune out other nocturnal noises. I know that if I am snoring, I will tune out my own snores. It’s those other miscellaneous sounds that will wake me up, or cause me to rise momentarily out of a deep slumber and into something lighter that feels less restful.

It was not always this way. I think I learned the habit of sleeping fitfully during the early childrearing years when a baby monitor sat next to our bed all night. Also, somewhere along the way, both my wife and I began to snore more. I assume it is related to aging. It does not help to also be a middle aged man with an active nocturnal bladder. In short, I have learned to sleep deeply but sustained sleep is very elusive.

Here at the Comfort Suites, like many of the hotels I have stayed at, an hour of sleep here feels like two hours of sleep at home. Getting eight hours of sleep, which is supposed to be ideal, feels luxurious. I can arise at four in the morning to shuffle off to the bathroom feeling incredibly rested. I am happy to throw myself back into bed. At six o’clock in the morning I am almost feeling like getting up because I feel fully rested, and yet there is time to sleep even more. It feels decadent to go back to sleep, but I do. When the alarm wakens me at seven o’clock, I realize I had eight hours of restful sleep. This is the way you should feel getting out of bed, but it is something so many of us seem to have lost.

Sleep is highly underrated. We find other distractions that make staying awake far more inviting. I confess I can succumb to these desires as well. Nonetheless, I try to listen to my body. When it tells me it is time for sleep (generally ten p.m. on weekdays, eleven p.m. on weekends) I shuffle off to bed. Unfortunately, it usually takes an hour or so for my wife to join me. Sometimes I will just turn off the lights and go to bed, but usually I elect to read for half an hour, which will almost certainly put me in a narcoleptic mood. The same cannot be said about my wife, a natural night owl who only shuffles bed around eleven p.m. because she has to get up early in the morning.

Tonight out here in BWI’s hotel alley, I anticipate another very restful night of sleep. It is odd that I find a strange bed to be more restful than the one I share at home, but that’s just the way it is. I can see why older spouses often migrate into separate bedrooms, simply because they realize that being able to snuggle at night, however pleasurable, does not surpass the greater joy of a good night’s rest.

I will not need earplugs tonight, as I enjoy my last night at the Linthicum Heights Comfort Suites, but doubtless I will reach for them tomorrow when, home again, I slip back into my own bed.

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